Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will step down in 14 days and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will become the first female governor of New York.
The announcement came exactly one week after a damning report by the state Attorney General’s Office that detailed 11 cases of alleged sexual harassment by Andrew Cuomo against female staffers, acquaintances and even a female state trooper on his security detail.
“My instinct is to fight through this controversy, because I truly believe it is politically motivated,” Cuomo said. “It is unfair and untruthful.
“[However], this situation will generate months of controversy,” the governor continued. “Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing state government should be doing. I cannot be the cause of that.
“Given the circumstances, the best thing I can do is step aside and let government get back to governing.”
Cuomo’s announcement comes two days after his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, stepped down on Sunday.
The state Assembly was moving quickly with its impeachment investigation, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie signaled there were more than enough votes in the house to officially impeach Cuomo. It is unclear whether the Assembly will proceed with the impeachment process, now that Cuomo has stated his intent to step down.
“I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers,” said Hochul, who will be sworn in as governor in the next two weeks. “As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th governor.”
Just minutes after the announcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio posted on Twitter: “Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories. It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.”
The Attorney General’s Office launched its investigation of the sexual harassment claims back in March, bringing in outside investigators Joon Kim and Anne Clark who looked at more than 74,000 documents, emails, texts and pictures, and spoke with nearly 180 people.
After five months, the investigators concluded that Cuomo did sexually harass multiple women — including former and current state employees — by engaging in unwanted groping, kissing and hugging, and making inappropriate comments.
Additionally, the governor and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with her story.
The investigators found that the Executive Chamber fostered a “toxic” workplace that enabled “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.” The report states that Cuomo’s actions and those of his senior staff and advisors violated multiple state and federal laws, as well as the Executive Chamber’s own written policies.
“Today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it’s an important step towards justice,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“I thank Governor Cuomo for his contributions to our state. The ascension of our Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, will help New York enter a new day. We must continue to build on the progress already made and improve the lives of New Yorkers in every corner of the state. I know our state is in good hands with Lieutenant Governor Hochul at the helm, and I look forward to continuing to work with her.”
Watch Cuomo’s announcement here:
“This has been a tragic chapter in our state’s history. Governor Cuomo’s resignation is the right decision,” said Assembly Speaker Heastie. “The brave women who stepped forward were heard. Everyone deserves to work in a harassment free environment.
“I have spoken with Lieutenant Governor Hochul and I look forward to working with her.”
Cuomo could still face criminal charges for allegedly groping an executive assistant in the Governor’s Mansion in the city of Albany. The assistant filed a formal complaint last week with the Albany County Sherriff’s Office. Other local district attorneys are investigating possible harassment incidents that occurred in their jurisdictions, including Manhattan and Westchester, Nassau and Oswego counties.